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  • Shino Takahashi


Updated: Apr 25, 2022

From good, to oh-no, to holy **** I'm doin' it!

One of the very few surviving images from that first week shooting real estate years ago.

"Hey, can you shoot with natural light? We like working with you but the company really needs you to step up the game"

I used to shoot like this first photo, seemingly a lifetime ago. In a unit the very first week of my career, I shot natural light, my preferred look from years previous of street and portrait photography. This space demanded it. The unit on Mt. Vernon St was stunning, flooded with afternoon sun, the vintage cabinets and detailing throughout rich. The carefully draped throw on the office chair almost poetic. I was so happy with the resulting images, but the day after was strictly reminded to stay within the company shoot guidelines. Volume was prioritized, and I understood for their business model to work we had to be consistent as possible with speed and results. There is certainly a market for that and there always will be, it just took years to understand my values did not align and it was okay. It was a step into the field nonetheless and I am grateful for the experience and lessons taught then.

2020. Still freshly back to being true freelance - unprotected, but also unbound. A sudden request for incorporating natural light on a job by one of my longtime clients. Up until then, I've been shooting in the method I've been told to do for years- single flash frame, and a very short window of time in order to photograph as many jobs as possible in a day. One of the regular agents even nicknamed me Speedy Gonzalez.

Oh dear lawd...this was just in 2019. Yep, looks like a typical budget job quality.

Seriously, what on earth did you all see in me??

It's like I went from being decent to "oh hell no" but was too busy and exhausted to notice. I sprinted from house to house in a mad dash, no cheesy reward.

Back to the client quoted. For a moment my mind went blank, and a fierce whirlwind of panic and fear came over me which I hushed immediately, for I can have great poker face with internal chaos (most days anyways). After shooting the home internally screaming the entire session, I looked at the photos. Not great - this method being on the other extreme side of the scale. The colors were off due to the orange and blue light bulbs throughout, and I did it handheld so sharpness was compromised. There was something there though. Dread turned into frustration and curiosity, like trying to grasp at a fading dream as the day goes on..

The scary job in which my interior photographic life started to shift

Days, weeks, the murkiness persisted. Slowly, it came into focus.

Since this mildly terrifying session, my interest in interiors piqued, albeit very cautiously at first, still clinging desperately to that harsh flash I've told myself is all I need to get things done. I've spent the last two years exploring in a quietly, slowly experimenting and shifting subtly enough perhaps no one would really take notice. Things improved, my eyes started to come into focus.

Late 2020. Okay, still don't know what I'm doing but we're starting to get somewhere

For some reason this past autumn the desire for progress suddenly exploded into an obsessio..Nah, it's reframe it as intense passion, that haven't been experienced in too many years. I started to notice details missed before, fueled by tips and advice from incredible professionals in the communities I became a part of.

I was told what makes a great photographer is recognizing and shaping a space with light - encouraging direction and form as everyone who built this scene intended. Finding balance with the light that was there first. I take a gentle step forth, arms outstretched in hope of truce. "I'm not going to try fighting and overpowering you anymore, it's okay". Only when that mutual respect is establish can a sort of magic occur and a collaboration between photographer and building begins.

"Hey is that wood detailing on the stairs late 19th century handcarving?"

"These owners kept all the right features of your mid-century frame"

"You really help everyone start their day well guiding that warm sun at the breakfast nook. I see what you're doing buddy, well done"

It starts to reveal itself, feeling heard, feeling safe.

Recent shoots. It's happening!

I'm no longer a cartoon mouse scurrying madly room to room, though efficiency is something I continuously work on through the refinement process. Hell, I'm always refining, evolving, as one does. I may not be the personification of absolute perfection, such an impossibility isn't possible nor is it meant to be, but darn if I can even get close to what that may look like I'm happy. All I want to do now is to become fluent in the language of these inanimate yet soulful places. They were here first afterall. I want to greet and listen, inviting and waiting for them to meet me in that center.

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